Walden, Pomeroy Bill Gives Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Louder Voice
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) yesterday introduced the MedPAC Rural Representation Act, HR 1730, a bipartisan bill that would ensure that rural Medicare beneficiaries and rural health care providers are fairly represented on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). MedPAC is the nonpartisan commission that advises Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program such as access to care, quality of care and the appropriateness of Medicare payments to health care providers.
"MedPAC's recommendations carry significant weight with Congress. Since Congress looks to MedPAC's analysis when considering modifications to the Medicare program, it is imperative to make sure that the voice of rural Medicare beneficiaries and the health professionals that care for them is not left out in their deliberations," Walden said. "With over one of every four Medicare beneficiaries living in rural America, it's a no-brainer that they should have more than just one representative on the commission that has first-hand knowledge and substantial understanding of the realities of delivering and accessing health care services in rural and frontier regions."
"People living in rural areas face unique challenges to receiving adequate health care, including access to hospitals and shortages of healthcare providers. So it's important for rural America to have a seat at the table when decisions about Medicare are being made," Pomeroy said. "Medicare beneficiaries in rural states like North Dakota deserve to have representatives that have firsthand knowledge of the challenges they face."
Currently, just one of MedPAC's 17 commissioners has solid rural credentials. The MedPAC Rural Representation Act, which has 45 original co-sponsors, would require that the number of MedPAC commissioners representing rural beneficiaries and providers be proportional to the number of rural Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare program.
* Currently, nearly 28 percent of the Medicare population resides in rural areas
* Thus, HR 1730 would require that no less than 28 percent of the MedPAC commissioners have a professional background that makes them familiar with the unique nature of rural health care delivery
* If HR 1730 were to become law, five of MedPAC's 17 commissioners would be rural representatives (17 commissioners x 28 percent = 4.76 commissioners)
"It is imperative that voices on MedPAC have first hand knowledge and substantial understanding of unique rural challenges in accessing health care," said George Miller, President of the National Rural Healthcare Association (NRHA). "Current statutory language should provide these important voices as it requires a balance between rural and urban Commissioners. Yet despite, nearly 28 percent of Medicare beneficiaries living in rural communities, only one of the 17 appointed MedPAC Commissioners has significant professional experience in rural America. We thank Representatives Walden and Pomeroy for acknowledging this lack of balance and proposing sensible legislation to remedy the situation."
Walden and Pomeroy are the co-chairs of the 172-member Rural Health Care Coalition. Last Congress, Walden and Pomeroy introduced H.R. 6030, a comprehensive rural health care bill that included the text of the MedPAC Rural Representation Act as one of its provisions.
For more information on MedPAC go to http://www.medpac.gov/.